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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Amelia KashianFebruary 22, 2024

NMU ends season in buzzer-beating fashion

It was a big final weekend for the seniors on the NMU men’s basketball squad. Both forward DeAndre Taylor and center Jared Benson ended their careers on a high note.

On Saturday, a Saginaw freethrow tied the game at 74-74 with 12 seconds left. The ’Cats called a timeout and head coach Doug Lewis put the ball into the hands of Taylor.

“It’s a tie game, we only needed two and I knew DeAndre could drive the ball to the basket,” Lewis said. “It’s his last day, his dad is in the stands, so there’s no way I wasn’t going to give him the ball to win the game, and he came through.”

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Taylor drove the right baseline and put up two of his team-high 23 points as the buzzer sounded. Taylor said it’s been a tough season but the team never stopped fighting, which resulted in the 76-74 win.

“I just believe in the coach’s play,” Taylor said. “I believe in myself and I just wanted us to get a win. It’s our last year, this is it for us. I just wanted to go out with a win.”

The ’Cats missed a jumper with 23 seconds left and secured the offensive rebound. In a scramble in the paint, NMU missed two layups and Benson fouled out of the game.

Saginaw was only able to convert one of their freethrows. Benson, who netted 20 points, said there was no doubt Taylor would get the last shot.

“Nobody goes to the hole like him, he goes in so hard and he jumps so high it’s almost impossible to play defense on him,” Benson said. “That’s why I felt really confident going into that last play, I knew he was going to get it done because no one can elevate with him.”

Freshman guard Haki Stampley also chipped in 16 points, while freshman guard Spencer Huss got his first career start, netting eight points to help snap the ’Cats nine-game losing streak.

On Thursday, NMU wasn’t able to get into a rhythm and fell, 81-53, to the Northwood University Timberwolves.

The Wildcats most tenured player was able to reach a milestone in the loss.

At the 14:23 mark of the second half, Benson converted a layup to become the 29th player in NMU’s history to net 1,000 points.

“I feel like it’s a great accomplishment,” Benson said. “It gives you a good feeling about what you’ve done over the past four or five years.”

Benson led the team in scoring last season at 14.1 points-per-game and is averaging 11.7 points per-game this season.

Lewis had high praises of the senior, who was honored before the Saginaw game.

“He’s an example of a great student athlete,” Lewis said. “He works hard on the court, and he works hard in the classroom. He’s had a great career here.”

Benson hopes to play basketball professionally after he graduates from NMU. He expressed interest in playing in Germany and said his time as a Wildcat has been valuable to his career.

“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Lewis and Coach (Dean) Ellis. It’s going to help me a lot,” Benson said. “Having two different coaches you learn a lot of different philosophies and it’s helped me over the years, and I hope to keep learning in the future.”

Leading the ’Cats in scoring this season was Taylor at 14.1 points per game, while Stampley was close behind averaging 14 points per game.

Taylor led NMU with 6.0 rebounds per game and Benson contributed 1.7 blocks per contest.

Lewis said the seniors on this year’s squad have shown the younger players what it takes to turn the program around and build a foundation heading into the future.

“When you’re trying to change a program around and change the attitude and culture of the program you need a couple of guys who are going to stick in there and work hard,” Lewis said. “Benson and Taylor for the last two years, no matter how hard it got, continued to work hard and were committed.”

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